The Fishing Cat is a hunter mostly of aquatic animals, specializing in fish, frogs, mollusks and snakes. It preys on any animal and birds that it can secure and has been known to kill calves and sheep, to carry off dogs and even children! At the same time it does not spare terrestrial prey including rodents, deer, goats, dogs and even small wild boars! The opportunistic cat has also been known to go after birds and kills of other predators. There is the record of a newly-caught male which killed a leopardess twice its size after breaking through the partition which separated their cages (S. H. Prater). Solitary cats, they come in unison for mating primarily. Pregnancy lasts around two months after which a litter of one to five kittens is born. They are weaned off after half an year at the most and gain independence after one year of age. Life-span is generally around ten to twelve years in captivity.
Threats and Reasons for Decline:
Wetland destruction is the primary threat faced by the fishing cat. Causes of this destruction include human settlement, draining for agriculture, construction of aquaculture facilities, and wood-cutting In addition, clearance of coastal mangroves over the recent past has been rapid in tropical Asia. High use of pesticides in rice fields and fishponds results in adverse impacts, since the harmful chemical residues can enter aquatic food chains and affect top predators such as the fishing cat. Destructive fishing practices have also greatly reduced the fishing cat's main prey base. Finally, the fishing cat is hunted because it is considered edible and its skin is still valued by the fur trade.
The fishing cat is strongly associated with wetlands. It is typically found in swamps and marshy areas, oxbow lakes, reed beds, tidal creeks and mangrove areas. It has been recorded at elevations up to 1800 m (5900') in the Indian Himalayas, where it frequents dense vegetation near rivers and streams. Some studies show that the fishing cat's distribution seems highly correlated with vegetation cover and that most sightings of this cat are of animals sitting next to moving water. However, results of the only radio-tracking study up to 2003, in the terai grasslands of southern Nepal, indicated that the fishing cat spent most of its time in dense tall and short grasslands, sometimes well away from water.
The fishing cat is a nocturnal hunter. It is very much at home in the water. It is a strong swimmer, even in deep water, and it can swim long distances. The fishing cat has been observed to dive into water after fish, as well as to crouch on a rock or sandbank near the water and swat the fish out onto dry land with its paw. It has even been seen to catch waterfowl by swimming up to them while fully submerged and seizing their legs from underneath.Social Organization:The fishing cat appears to be a solitary hunter, but otherwise there is little information on its social organization or mating behavior in the wild.